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My bank sold a local branch to another bank (in the state of Wisconsin, United States of America), including my accounts, without my permission. My first knowledge of it was that my debit card was declined. Calling my local branch during business hours only got an answering machine under the new bank's name.

I went home, checked 8 months or so of envelopes from the bank, and saw zero pertinent information.

Today I finally got through to a human at my old bank's customer service. Their position: you are no longer a customer, we don't have your accounts. Would you like the new bank's customer service number?

And, yes, I got middle-sized envelopes from my "new owner" twice over the last month. I didn't open them, just as I don't open the offers from other banks that I'm not a member of, insurance companies I have no policies with, car repair scams, etc.

So, how is any of this legal? There is another branch of my old bank about as far from me as my new one. There are branches all over the state I could have used. Why can't I keep using any of them? When I set up my accounts I had to sign papers: I have signed no papers with this new bank, why do they have a right to my accounts? Not to mention my personal information, which presumably has now been transferred without my permission to a third party that I have never seen a privacy policy for, all without my permission.

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    That's seven paragraphs, most very long, of which almost none is needed. The first four can be condensed to a single sentence - we don't need two pages of detail of what you went through to find out the situation, which is "my local branch got sold to another bank without warning me". – Nij Dec 16 '20 at 2:22
  • I've edited out most of the extraneous information. Feel free to adjust further. – Ryan M Dec 21 '20 at 9:41
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Contracts are transferrable

The default rule is that the rights and obligations that one person holds under a contract (your original bank) can be transferred to any other person (your new bank). This is only not the case where the contract is one for personal services (e.g. an employment contract) or where the contract explicitly prescribes or otherwise limits it.

For example, if I run a dog walking business and you contract with me to walk your dog on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for 6 months then, at any time, I can transfer my obligation to walk the dog and my right to be paid by you for doing so to anyone else. I can do this by subcontracting (in which case the rights and obligations are still mine - I'm just using someone else to fulfil them), or by selling individual contracts (which is how debt collection businesses operate), or by selling the entire business.

It would be completely normal that the contracts you agreed to when you opened your accounts would allow the bank to sell them. Check the terms and conditions.

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  • Are they transferable by default? That seems very strange. – user253751 Dec 16 '20 at 13:47
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    @user253751 the law essentially says you are not to care who delivers to you what you are contracted for unless you care about it explicitly. – Greendrake Dec 17 '20 at 1:24
  • Presumably the contract for e.g. a loan does say who you should pay for the loan. It would be stupid if you could get your house foreclosed because the bank sold your mortgage without telling you and you'd been paying the wrong person. – user253751 Dec 17 '20 at 14:17
  • @user253751 But if your are properly informed that your mortgage has been sold you have to buy the new holder (or more likely the servicing company that they hire for that purpose). Indeed, not only are loans and bank deposits assignable, they are "negotiable" which means that it is especially easy and legally advantaged to assign them. – ohwilleke Dec 18 '20 at 23:05
  • Doesn't this mean that in order for this to be fair for both parties (for example in the case of a bank account), the customer can also transfer their accounts and information to other people? For example, if it's legal for a bank to sell contracts of your debt to debt collectors, isn't it also legal for a person with debt to transfer their debt to other people? – Mesos Dec 24 '20 at 11:50
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My first knowledge of it was that my debit card was declined.

That is probably the only thing that you have legal standing to complain about.

As pointed by Dale M, contracts can be transferred unless they explicitly prohibit transferring. You are entitled to continue to receive the same service under the same conditions as your original contract provided for.

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